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RETURN OF THE GOODIES - REVIEW
(by Lisa Manekofsky)
(from C&G #122 January 2006)
December 30th brought the premiere of "Return of the Goodies" on BBC 2 in the UK. The show was originally planned as part of a two-hour Goodies night; BBC 2 eventually decided to allot only 90 minutes for the special. Fans' hopes that the extra 30 minutes would be used to repeat an original Goodies episodes were dashed when BBC 2 instead scheduled an episode of a comedy show called "Room 101". The Goodies may have had the last laugh - according to rating information from the BARB (the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board LTD), kindly supplied to the club by Cameron Yarde Jnr, "Return Of The Goodies" was watched by 3.44 million viewers and was the third most watched show on BBC2 that week. According to the overnight figures the special garnered a 14.2% share over 90 minutes, up 50% from BBC 2's average share of 9%. At the conclusion of the special almost a million people switched to another channel rather than sticking around for "Room 101".
About the show itself:
"Return of the Goodies" merged a specially made documentary about the Goodies along with newly recorded studio footage of Tim, Graeme, & Bill. As reported in C&G issue 120, this recording took place in October in front of an audience of about 300 Goodies fans.
The show starts with a feature very reminiscent of many classic Goodies episodes - a report from a BBC newsreader. In this case, instead of reporting about a giant kitten or missing lighthouse the newsreader informs us that the Millennium Dome has disappeared, uncovering a site the BBC had used as a dump for sets from classic comedies. The scene then shifts to the interior of the Goodies office. As mentioned in the article about the October recording, the set designer did an amazing job in fashioning something very similar to the Goodies 1970's sets. A few original props and some Goodies memorabilia (such as their books and albums) have been scattered around. In addition, there are many props that reference classic episodes, such as a model Kitten Kong on a scaled down Post Office Tower, a section of beanstalk, etc.
Graeme and Bill break into the office and comment that something, or someone, is missing. This is quickly rectified as Tim emerges from the loo. The others question whether he's been in there for 25 years; Tim replies defensively that it was a *very* difficult crossword. The reunited Goodies try to remember quite what they did 25 years ago, which leads in to the showing of the documentary. While the show starts with the Goodies in character the rest of the program cuts between them in the office set talking about the making of the series and sections of the documentary or classic clips that illustrate their points.
The documentary portion starts with an overview of "The Goodies", mentioning the number of episodes, talking about their books and records, and explaining their three characters. The special then discusses the Goodies musical career; it features many (far too short) clips of the Goodies appearing on a number of musical and variety shows in the mid 1970s. Throughout the documentary portion we see pre-filmed interviews with each of the individual Goodies as well as the following people (each name is followed by the title the person was given in their on-screen caption):
Ronni Ancona (comedian & writer)
Stanley Baxter (Comedy Actor)
Tony Blackburn (broadcaster & former radio 1 DJ)
John Cleese (comedy actor & writer)
Jon Culshaw (comedian)
Barry Cryer (comedy writer & performer)
Bruce Dessau (author & comedy critic, Evening Standard)
Jim Franklin (producer & director 1970-80)
Martin Freeman (actor)
Mark Gatiss (comedy actor & writer)
David Gooderson (former Footlights member 1963-4)
Rolf Harris (presenter)
Sir David Hatch (former Footlights member 1959-63)
Adam Hills (comedian)
John Howard Davies (head of comedy, bbc 1980-85)
Phill Jupitus (comedian & broadcaster)
Emma Kennedy (comedy actress & writer)
Sanjeev Kohli (comedy actor)
Steve Punt (comedy writer)
David Quantick (comedy writer)
James Rampton (comedy critic, The Independent)
Bob Spiers (director, 1977-82)
The next major section of the documentary discusses the Goodies origins & comedy roots. It mentions their work in Cambridge Footlights and even features a portion of Tim and Bill's appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" as part of the "Cambridge Circus" revue during its New York run. Some of the other pre-Goodies shows discussed are "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again", "At Last the 1948 Show", "BBC3", and "Broaden Your Mind".
The special then moves on to cover "The Goodies" series including highlights from the show, famous guest stars, etc. During this segment the Goodies talk about the making of the show and include a few anecdotes that also appeared in their live Australian show from last year. I thought more of the tour material might be recycled for the television special but, happily, only a small amount was used, leaving the door open for the Goodies to do the live show in the UK if the opportunity presents itself (hint hint!)
During this portion of the special the Goodies are "reunited" with one of the trandems used during the making of the original series. Sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed that it didn't look like the most familiar version of the bike (which was used for most of the BBC run). I believe the bike making an appearance on this occasion was actually the blue trandem used in the LWT series. It had been repainted red for the special, although Bill Oddie joked that it was red because of all the Goodies' blood which had spilled on it during various trandem accidents.
"Return of the Goodies" also covered the Goodies move to LWT. It included some interesting comments from John Howard Davies (Head of BBC Comedy at the time) about his decisions not to order another series of "The Goodies" and not to repeat the show when he could have in the early 1980's. (Some feedback I read after the show aired showed that many were highly skeptical of his excuses, particularly that he didn't repeat The Goodies in the 1980s because none of the repeat time slots he had available were appropriate for it.)
The special concluded with a segment briefly mentioning Tim, Graeme and Bill's post-Goodies solo work, including "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue" and Bill's nature programs. We're treated to the clip from "Fun at the Funeral Parlour" in which Bill (playing himself as a character in the show) complains about the lack of Goodies repeats for the show's 30th anniversary.
Originally the special had included a segment talking about the huge fan base in Australia and the Goodies recent live shows there. This included an interview with the fan club's founder (and Adelaide native) Alison Bean as well as a selection of fan photos from the tours and the Kitten Kon convention. Unfortunately, this segment had to be cut out when the special was reduced from two hours to 90 minutes; the producers sent a nice note of explanation to Alison, which she passed along to the club members in the club's forums. Alison is thanked in the closing credits for her contributions - besides doing the interview she also provided a lot of information and loaned her Goodies memorabilia to be used on the set and photographed for the documentary.
Another familiar name popping up in the closing credits is Andrew Pixley, who served as consultant for the project (many of you know Andrew as a contributor to the C&G and the club forums). I'm sure Andrew was instrumental in suggesting many of the extremely well-chosen Goodies clips that were used to illustrate the show.
While people overall enjoyed the special there were some complaints about time being wasted on the overuse of "coming up next" sequences. There was speculation that they were added in anticipation of the special being broadcast overseas on commercial stations. Andrew explained that this was not the case; he said "coming up next" is actually becoming a standard feature that appears every 15 minutes in non-drama shows on the BBC. The ones used in "Return of the Goodies" were purposefully created with a cheesy feel as spoofs of the UK version of "Blind Date" (I felt they had a nice 1970's feel that fit in well with the subject matter). On the topic of the special being shown overseas, it's really too early for us to have any news about that. However, the special's producers are aware of the huge fan base in Australia; we've got our fingers crossed that an Australian broadcast will be arranged. We'll pass along any news when we get it.
Overall I felt it was a very enjoyable show that did an excellent job in presenting the Goodies story, or at least as much as could be done in 90 minutes. It's too bad they didn't have that extra half hour to show more of the rare Goodies appearances and to include a longer interview with Jim Franklin.
Thanks to the excellent ratings and interest in "Return of the Goodies" the BBC have been asked about the possibility of airing repeats of the original series. In a BBC News article quoted elsewhere in this issue a BBC spokesperson said it was "too early to say" whether it would now air repeats but they "certainly wouldn't rule it out given the audience interest". We've been told that letters from individuals are given more weight than petitions or writing campaigns; fans in the UK are encouraged to write to the BBC and the Radio Times at the following addresses (which are also available in the club FAQ at http://www.goodiesruleok.com/faq.php?topic=5#faq49). Do not say you are writing as part of a letter writing campaign or at the request of a fan club. Please pass this information on to any of your friends who may be interested.
SUGGESTED BBC CONTACT ADDRESSES:
by email: http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/contactus/faqs.shtml
by post: BBC Information, PO Box 1922, Glasgow, G2 3WT
by phone: 0870 010 0222
CONTACT INFO FOR THE RADIO TIMES:
The Letters Editor
80 Wood Lane
London W12 0TT
Tel: 0870 608 4455
Fax: 020 8433 3923